I started decorating and helping Raine get ready for the holiday season the day we returned from Colorado (a trip to see friends after Thanksgiving). I was grateful that I did that--I didn't know the majority of December would be engulfed by the trauma and duties of grief, then caught up in the whirlwind of our very first Christmas with our families (12 years overdue).
Although it felt like a mad dash to get ready for Christmas after the funeral on the 15th, I had a few moments to slow down and try to find my way inside the consoling cover of a peaceful and joyful moment. Seeing sentimental items and beautiful decorations was comforting and as always, teaching holiday rituals to Raine and sharing new moments with him helped me get out of bed every day.
Here are a few of my favorites to remember of our 2016 holiday season...
As a kindergarten student, Raine participated in his first school Christmas program. I relished the opportunity to dress him up and he and I wore my mother's vintage Christmas brooches. He successfully sang a few songs without falling off the stage or crying. He did have a wardrobe malfunction with his tree hat and we got a good laugh out of watching him try to fix it for three songs. Guests at his Christmas program (happily munching on popcorn) included mommy, daddy, Grandpa Don, Papa Jim, and Nana Char. How special! The perks of living in Illinois....
....Which has also included snow! || My trusty dream car helped bring home a tree that Dan and Raine picked from a local farm. It's a different experience than we had in Oregon, but Dan still enjoyed it and repeated his tradition of leaving the tree up well into January. || For a few days, Raine stayed in Lisle with Uncle Doug and Aunt Rita and got to try out his snowball skills with JD and Uncle Doug! || Our first nativity fit right in with our other religious relics in the hallway. Raine was given the freedom to choose where everyone was placed. The angel in the candle was perfect, but the baby Jesus in the lap of Buddha was pretty genius.
This year, Raine's advent cabinet was filled by a highly unreliable elf named Clarence. To begin, Clarence didn't know where to leave candy for Raine December 1st-3rd because we were out of town and then didn't have the cabinet out yet. On the 4th, Raine found notes from Clarence explaining that he didn't know where to put the candy so Raine should check in the dryer, on the bar, and by his piggy bank. Clarence's candy also reminded us of stale Halloween candy, so Raine had to leave a note requesting something new. Clarence missed more days and forgot to leave candy but then also left a dollar bill once, too, so it was hard to be mad at him. Raine is considering requesting Clara, his sister, to manage things next year.
Raine's list for Santa. Top items were a Minions Fartblaster, a Little Live Pets (Talking) Bird, and a remote control BB-8. Mommy was super proud of his penmanship. Look at that signature! I filled out a wish list, too, but it included things more like vegan chocolate chip cookies, jewelry, world peace, and lots of books.
Raine continues to love his baby Christmas tree, previously displayed in his bedroom. This year he wanted it near the big Christmas tree. It serves no great purpose other than giving mommy an excuse to buy tiny ornaments every year. || Raine selected this santa and tree duo (salt and pepper shaker) that was my mother's to hang out on his lego table in the middle of his play area and they stood there in the same exact spot all month. It was fascinating. || Dan's inaugural musical brewhouse -- the first item out of our holiday storage and displayed promptly December 1st. This poor thing has seen some tough toddler abuse over the past several years, but also lots of love. Dan has to hold the broken power switch together in a precarious manner that only he seems able to do, in order for it to operate. A few brewmasters are missing limbs, but all other broken pieces and parts are glued and fixed. || Wish lists ready for Clarence to deliver. Cross your fingers.
We spent Christmas Eve Eve at Uncle Tom and Aunt Rachel's, with Logan, Lexi, Grandpa Don, and Tom's sister Mickie, as well as her boys Jake and Gavin. Raine, Logan, and Lexi's identical big gifts from Grandpa Don were remote control drones! || Grandpa Don scored a lot of Cubs loot from his kids and grandkids, thanks to the big win this year. || Some of our mother's flowers graced the room near the tree--so beautiful!
My most beautiful niece.
Raine & Logan 12.13.16 || Raine's new talking bird! He christened him "Bubble Pop" || A happy kid on Christmas Eve, showing his love of cats with a cat Christmas tree shirt || Star Wars figures from daddy, ready for some action.
Christmas Eve we drove to Lemont, where we joined Dan's maternal grandmother, Delores Karpiak, with some of her children and their families for dinner, exchanging gifts for the great grand-kids, and general merriment. We spent the night at Doug and Rita's so we could wake in the morning and open gifts together with Jim and Char, Nathan, and JD. Raine and JD made sure to leave cookies and drinks for santa, then I don't know how they fell asleep, but they did! Christmas morning was a blur of little boys tearing open presents! Nathan scored the biggest haul, with gifts and love also given by Rita's parents, Dave and Charlotte. It was his first birthday!!! What a cutie.
Of course, my favorite part of Christmas was the part that was just like all the ones that have come before: Just Dan and I exchanging gifts by the tree while listening to music (with a little festive libation). We returned home on Christmas day just after dusk. Raine was excited to see that Clarence had reminded Santa to leave us a few things even though the main delivery had been given to us at Uncle Doug's house. Clarence forgot to fill daddy's stocking, but other than that, there were some gifts and treats. To Raine's chagrin, I mostly gifted him puzzles (because I love doing puzzles!) Dan surprised me with a new labradorite ring, hidden in a box of homemade vegan chocolate chip cookies, as well as TWO massage gift certificates. He also spoiled me with other wonderful things like my first Christmas cactus, new earrings, and plenty of vegan chocolate. I lavished him with whiskey, beer, socks, and a book. Our gift from Raine was a sweet little picture of him, taken at school on the night of the Christmas program, made into an ornament for the tree.
Another fond memory would be the time spent on break as a family (I also had several days of holiday time off), often lounging around the house being lazy but being lazy together. And moments with friends--Dan and I spent a fun night at Kate and John's party, playing games and listening to the Sing Along with Mitch Miller album while Kate and I had too much wine. I spent an afternoon with Nick and Megan and her family at a cafe in Galesburg, following her grandfather's funeral. I lived in Oregon during the loss of her grandmother and father. It made my heart happy to be able to be there for her now. Another warm gathering was spent at Steve and Anna Bailey's, while Hattie was visiting from Denver. My dad joined us and friendly faces we have kept in touch with since high school showed up and our kids played with toys, video games, or just chased the dog. I had my first happy hour since I started my new job, at Kelleher's, with my dear Hattie, and also joined a potluck luncheon with all of the staff in the wtvp/PSO building. Dan and I had another great night of drinking and talking politics, tv shows worthy of binging, and all things small town or parenting with our new friends, Randy and Taylor, while Raine played with their sons, Jack and James. Not that all I do is drink---but I also enjoyed an afternoon of wrapping gifts with Amy and drinking wine. We also exchanged gifts of wine to one another. Ha ha! Finally, we celebrated New Year's Eve by having dinner at Tom and Rachel's with the kids, her friends, and my dad. Exhaustion of the whole month came crashing down on me that night, as well as Dan and Raine, I think. We were home and in bed before midnight!
So much to be grateful for.
To not have my mom present this season was numbing, but my favorite part was every moment by Dan's side. If I had to pick just one, I'd pick that last kiss of 2016 that Dan and I shared, followed by our first kiss of 2017. I can't imagine anything better. With him, I feel alive, safe, beautiful, and loved.
This guy. I am the luckiest.
What moment would you pick?